Junker’s Blues – 1971

King Curtis & Champion Jack Dupree

A memorable blues featuring two musicians from different generations

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King Curtis (1934-71), who was born Curtis Montgomery, was a superior tenor-saxophonist who spent much of his career as a session musician.

While he generally performed rhythm and blues, he could also play jazz quite well when the opportunity arose as can be heard on recordings with Nat Adderley and Wynton Kelly.

Champion Jack Dupree (1909-92) was a major blues and boogie-woogie pianist-singer who had a long career, moving permanently to Europe in 1960.

On June 17, 1971, two months before King Curtis was fatally stabbed in a senseless act of violence, Curtis and Dupree joined up with guitarist Cornell Dupree, bassist Jerry Jemmott, and drummer Oliver Jackson for a classic set at the Montreux Jazz Festival that was released as an album.

Fortunately the performance was also filmed including Dupree’s “Junker’s Blues” which finds the pianist singing about the joys of marijuana.

Dupree was a country blues artist at heart and he often played an irregular amount of bars per chorus, skipping ahead when inspired by the story he was telling.

One can see from Curtis’ smile that it was a challenge for him and the other musicians to play with Dupree without conflicting with his irregular flights, but it all turned out quite well with Curtis taking a passionate solo.

-Scott Yanow


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